INTRO: Russia is a monarchy. Politologists may call it cleptocracy, the opposition – a totalitarian state, and Putin’s ideologists – a sovereign democracy. In reality, the monarchy was restored in Russia in 1999. It was done by Yeltsin, who gave Vladimir Putin keys to the Kremlin.
In 2008, after two terms of reigning Putin decided to step down and appointed Medvedev a Deputy Tzar. By respecting the Constitution Putin showed good manners to the West. But his gesture couldn’t change the fact that he stayed in power as a PM, a monarch de facto, which clearly indicated that Medvedev meant no more than a temporary Kremlin wallpaper. Indeed, last autumn Putin informed his happy compatriots that he’s running for president again. The elections are coming very soon, they’ll take place on the 4th of March 2012; the wallpaper will be removed (Medvedev is not competing with his master).
THE PROBLEM: Russia has changed since 2008 (I’m Mr Stating the Obvious). Its socioeconomic infrastructure has corroded even further as a result of blooming corruption backed (or tolerated, the exact wording is irrelevant) by Putin’s administration. Russia is now in a state of what is defined in textbooks as revolutionary situation: the lower strata can’t bear it anymore, but the upper strata can’t change. Putin being a very smart person surely knows the signs. But the Kremlin rumours tell us that he is too isolated and perhaps still being persuaded by his staff that all the recent Russian protests are just a plot of the evil opposition funded from US and elsewhere.
So that can explain why he mostly ignores the situation, labeling the protesters as Bandar-logs (Kipling’s brainless anarchists) and calling their symbol of peaceful change, a white ribbon, – a condom.
We all know that an infection if not treated can lead to gangrene, which can kill you unless you chose amputation. Well, Russia is on painkillers at the moment…
THE ELECTION PAINKILLER: Putin being a truly great monarch has recently shown his brilliant manners once again by allowing FAIR elections to take place and by ordering to install webcams at all the polling stations. We don’t know how the real figures will be produced. Let’s assume the poll will be fair. Putin is then likely to arrive head-to-head with the Communist Party leader Zyuganov, both will get around 30% votes each (in my subjective opinion). Which means a second round of elections may take place in Russia on the 25th of March. All in all, Putin will most likely be elected the new President of Russia (well, his PM sabbatical will be over and the Tzar will return). But what is next, what’s he gonna do with the Bandar-logs? Surely, he doesn’t expect them all to run in panic to London and Goa. Rumour has it the financial crisis is about to re-lapse, oil’s low and not so expensive. Someone is going to pay.
THE MISTAKE: In my opinion, Putin’s biggest mistake may be that he assumes that the opposition is his archenemy. While in reality he should look in the mirror: he artificially selected (in a Darwinian way) the most greedy, corrupt and incompetent staff, which led the whole nation to despair. The opposition is too civil to represent danger to Putin. They do Putin a favour: they warn him about the decay, let him know that his time is up and he needs to step down peacefully while he can. If he doesn’t listen, then he’ll see what’s coming next. People’s fury may be unleashed at any moment. Any ruler should be afraid of that. It’s like acetone, a highly inflammable substance, and you never know what will ignite it and when. What you do know is that if you heat it up enough it’ll will burst into flames by itself. The opposition is just a doctor with a thermometer and a medicine recipe, while Putin thinks they are just what raises the temperature.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST: Two historical events remind me about this situation: the 1572 St Bartholomew’day massacre and the 1825 Decembrist revolt in Russia. The first caused a general anti-monarchy shift in Huguenot’s thinking, and thanks to that we have parliamentary states in Europe now. The second eventually resulted in abolishing serfdom in 1861 and led to the Great October Revolution in Russia in 1917. In both cases, the monarchs thought they’d eradicate the problem by silencing the protesters, we know what happened.
Putin needs to step down or really do something with the corruption. But can he fight it if he’s a part of it? I doubt.
Almost 190 years ago Decembrists were punished for speaking openly about need for democracy, freedom and human rights. Will Putin make the Tzar Alexander’s mistake? Will his shortsightedness eventually lead to a new revolution?
All I can say that regardless of his choice the Russian people are down with monarchies, they have chosen their path to democracy, freedom and fair economy, and I think Russia as a parliamentary republic is just a matter of time.